Archive for the ‘The Ranch’ Category

Sheila, Florence, and Mikey

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Our little ranch lost one of its members not long ago.  Sheila, our Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix is no longer with us.  She wandered off, we don’t know why – she wasn’t really a wandering dog.  I found her in the road a few days later – there wasn’t a lot left.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I’m sad that my dog is dead of course, but she was getting on up in years (almost 11).  It’s possible that she wandered off to die and the coyotes left her in the road.  It’s possible the coyotes killed her.  It’s possible she got hit by a car.  Not knowing how she ultimately died leaves me feeling unresolved though.  Lack of closure sounds a little cheesy for a pet (to me), but I guess that’s what I feel.

A few days before Sheila wandered off, we got the two newest members of the ranch – Florence and Mikey.  Both are miniature Australian Shepherds (hey, stick with what you like!).  Florence is named after the “Doggy” in the web-comic Freefall that Dominic reads (now we all read it).  She has readily joined the family and is a very joyful little dog.  Needs some work on manners, but she’s a great dog.  Mikey is named after the Shetland Sheepdog I had as a kid.  His name was Michael.  Mikey looks a lot like him only smaller, hence the diminutive name :).  Mikey is not at all sure about us.  He has decided the ranch is home, but we are not yet his people.  He’s run off several times, but he comes back.  We catch him and try to be calm and pet him and love on him a lot.  Hopefully he’ll decide he likes us before long.

So long Sheila, we’ll miss you.  Welcome home Florence and Mikey!

Ok, now we return you to your regularly scheduled posting

Friday, July 9th, 2010

No, seriously.  I mean it this time.  For real.

I’ve got a lot to talk about, so get yourself a beer, or a cup of coffee, or whatever.

If  you read my last post, you know that our AC has been out.  Sadly our AC is *still* out.  I can not believe what an ordeal it has been to get it fixed. 

First we try to get the guy who installed the system (it’s a ground-source heat pump) to come out and look at it.  This takes like two weeks, ‘cause he won’t return a frickin’ call.  He finally comes out, and says that the recirculation pump needs to be replaced.  The part will cost in the $275 ballpark, and he can be back with it the next day.  Next day comes and goes with no sign of him.  We call, leave a message, no response.  I leave a message every day for four days.  I never hear from the guy.  It’s been over a month and I *still* haven’t heard from him.  So, screw him says I, and I call another repairman.

Second repairman returns my call in 30 minutes, so immediately I’m impressed.  I explain the situation to him over the phone.  I get all the part numbers for the recirculation pump and the compressor unit and all that, and call the guy back.  He says he can get the part in three or four days and he’ll be out when he gets it.  Part will be in the $275 ballpark.  So, he actually shows up in three or four days with the part.  I’m dutifully impressed.  Except it’s the wrong part.  I don’t know how you get the wrong frickin’ part when you’re given the manufacturer’s name and the part number, but he managed.  He calls his supplier.  The correct part is going to be in the $400 ballpark, and it’s going to cost another $60 to get it shipped in a reasonable time.  We have now exceeded the budget for this repair by a significant amount, and we haven’t even included labor yet.  Screw him says I, I’ll do it myself.

Actually, that last bit didn’t go quite like that.  Allena (using the part number mentioned above) finds that the pump is readily available online for $230.  Looking at the pump, it doesn’t appear to be difficult to install.  It’s basically four bolts, a couple of gaskets, and three wires.  I don’t know much about AC units, but I know the basics of plumbing and this looks like a cake job.

We order the part, and spring for next day shipping.  Next day comes and goes, and no part.  Next day after that comes and goes and no part.  So I call them and it turns out that even though it said “in stock” on the web site, I guess that wasn’t meant to be taken literally.  There will be a one to two week lead time to get the part from the manufacturer.  Screw you I says, I’ll get it elsewhere so cancel my order (ok, I didn’t really tell them “screw you”, but I’m developing a theme here, ok?  And I really did cancel my order)

I find another place online with the part.  I call them, and ask if when their site says that an item is in stock, if they mean that for real.  Turns out, the part I want really *is* in stock, and they really can ship it to me that day.  Sold, says I!  We sprung for second day shipping, and lo and behold, two days later we finally have the pump!

I dutifully crawl under the house to replace the pump.  At this point I should mention I don’t really like crawling around under the house.  Spiders don’t bother me, but I *hate* having spider WEBS on me.  Weird, eh?  And of course there’re plenty of spider webs under the house.  I get the webs cleared out, and cram myself under the house, I get the first three bolts off, and of course the fourth one is stuck tight.  I can’t budge it.  I crawl out, grab a couple of BIG pipe wrenches (two feet of pipe wrench gives you a LOT of leverage ;) ), crawl back under and proceed to show that bolt who is boss.  I think I got another twist or two in and then it was stuck really fast.

So now I laying on my back under the house, wondering how the heck I’m going to get this last bolt off.  The easy way would be to use a torch to heat up the nut so it’ll come off the bolt.  Only I don’t have a torch.  Long story short, I end up using a hack saw to cut about a third of the way through the bolt.  This took about 40 minutes – not because it was a thick bolt (3/8 inch), but because it’s hard to cut things when you’re lying on your side under a house.  After my cutting, I applied the pipe wrenches to the problem again and snapped the bolt (did I mention that two feet of pipe wrench gives you a LOT of leverage?).

Finally, I have the old pump out, the new pump in place, and all I have to do is wire it.  I undo the wires from the old pump, but the ground wire is connected with a frickin’ torx screw which I don’t happen to have under the house with me.  Screw it says I, I’ll finish it in the morning (it was nearly midnight).

The next morning comes, and my shoulders hurt so bad I want to cry.  This is from fighting the stupid bolt so hard to try and get it off.  Sigh.  Next time I’ll skip straight to the hack saw.  I take some Tylenol, hunt for a torx wrench (don’t have one), find the wire cutters instead, and gimp my way back under the house.  Get the pump wired up, and crawl back out.

We try firing up the AC and get a whole lot of nothing.  So, after checking a lot of things, we discover that *&%^#$! repairman number two has left the wires from the pump disconnected in the compressor area.  I get them wired back up, we try again, still nothing.

Now this was just a test – I really wasn’t expecting it to work, or at least not very well, and here’s why:  You see, the water line we’re dealing with is a closed loop.  It doesn’t have any way to refill the water that spilled out when I pulled the pump out.  That means there’s a big ol’ air bubble in the line, and so the pump can’t do anything.  The water line/pump needed to be “primed” before it would work.  There were two spots – one where the water line runs into the compressor, and one where it ran out that looked like they might be priming ports.  However, these ports were not a standard size, so I set about to make a hose adapter.

I take the cap for the port to the hardware store and start looking for threaded pipe that it would fit, so I’d know the exact size, etc.  I could not find ANYTHING that would fit.  I went to two different hardware stores, and nothing.  Finally, I take the cap to a *third* AC repair guy.  He doesn’t know about ground-source heat pumps but he does have an adapter hose he thinks will work that he loans me.  What a great guy!

I run home with the hose.  Guess what?  It doesn’t quite fit.  So, I go back in to town to return the hose, and ask repairman number three for his advice.  He refers me to repairman number four who actually works on ground-source heat pumps.

We drive out to repairman four’s place, and have a nice chat with him.  He explains that our priming ports are most likely bleeder valves (to let air out of the water line).  This leaves a little pickle…how do we get the water in? 

We end up constructing our own priming port out of a T-joint and a shut-off valve.  We hook up the hose, turn on the water, kick on the AC, and nothing.  I was hopeful that the pump would suck in some of the water at least but I was wrong.  So, we try the air release valves, only they’re not apparently air release valves as they don’t do anything.  I have no idea what they’re for.  Neither does anybody else except the guy who put the system in in the first place and I can’t ever get him to call me back.

We *still* have no AC.  Our next step is to try and install some kind of bleeder valve ourselves.  Hopefully that will get it going!

That’s enough for now…next time, the adventures of laying laminate flooring, and the bane of poison ivy!

Family happenings and other doings

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

I’ve been writing about marathon training a lot lately, with only occasional tidbits about other things going on in life.

I think the biggest thing happening lately is that our oldest son is learning to drive.  He’s actually doing a pretty good job of it.  Last Saturday I took him driving in my little old truck, which has a 4-speed manual transmission.  The only other time he’s ever driven a stick was in his grandparent’s truck out in a hay field.  I gotta say I’m proud of him.  Not only was this the first time he drove a stick on the road, but I actually took him out on the highway for the first time too.  He does very well on the road – parking lots are a little scary.  He particularly needs to practice driving in reverse more.  I think I only yelled a couple of times :) and I sure laughed more than I yelled.  Anyone who drives a stick knows that starting off in first when pointing up-hill is tricky.  At one point he stalled 4 or 5 times trying to get out of a parking lot.  It got to be pretty silly.

William is getting to be more and more consistent with using the potty.  Only peeing so far, but going through two or three pull-ups a day is lots cheaper than a bunch of diapers.

Vincent is getting bigger and bigger – we think he’s got a tooth coming in, and he’s trying to roll.

Elizabeth will be taking first communion on the first Sunday of next month (if all goes as planned!).  Both Elizabeth and Teresa have cute new *short* hair cuts as well – nice for summer, but also nicer to brush as there are fewer tangles.

Julianna is really starting to talk more and more.  She asks for things and is starting to use multiple words together.  She also likes to sing “Old McDonald” and will sing out “E-I-E-I-O….COW!” :)

Allena has been running with me (and on her own) too, and is beginning to see the results with some slimming down.  We’ve both been trying to eat a little healthier too, and I think that’s helped.

On the farm, we have one doe left to kid, and one ewe (maybe) left to lamb – we’re not sure about the ewe.  I also managed to pretty much destroy the chicken coop trying to move it.  It’ll have to be re-built.  Meanwhile the chickens are all pretty pissed off.

So, that’s the update – anything going on in your lives, oh loyal readers? :)

Week 4 done

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Ok, this post is a day late and a dollar short :)

Week 4 went pretty well – I ran 3 times.  I’ve determined that I’m going to have to just run 3 days per week because if I don’t get the full day of recovery between runs, my shins start crying like little girls.  I also managed to lose one pound – which is progress at least.

In other news, we got our Suburban running again this week (THANK YOU CHUCK!), and we also had three lambs born on the ranch this weekend – all spotted.  Two rams and one ewe.

Obligatory New Year’s post

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Happy new year every one!

Well, our latest child failed to show up in time to save us a bunch of money – we’ll just have to pay the deductibles again. Easy come, easy go. He also failed to show up early enough to be “first baby of the year” which would have been a conversation piece at least. No, he’s decided to take his own sweet time and just come when he feels like it. I guess all babies are that way really, but it sure is making Allena uncomfortable.

We didn’t do anything exciting for New Year’s Eve – we figured out several years ago that the kids get up early even when we stay up late, so we were in bed by 10:00. True to form, Julianna was up at 6:00am, so our strategy paid off.

Anyway, I hope 2010 is a wonderful year for everyone, filled with many blessings!